It’s time for another BUSY weekend of professional football – are you ready for the National Football League‘s (NFL) Divisional Round?
I am, despite picking four of six games correct last week – I thought the Chicago Bears were going to upset the New Orleans Saints and the Seattle Seahawks were going to beat the Los Angeles Rams, but like I sad in 2020, what do I know?
Let’s see if I can go four-for-four with picks this weekend – fingers crossed, of course! – but in the meantime, I hope everyone continues to stay safe, happy, and healthy!
Have a great weekend and let’s get ready for some great football – let’s go!
Get ready for a BUSY weekend of football by listening to the Football Friday Podcast with Andrew Pezzelli and Zach Weiss on Apple Podcasts and Spotify!
Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers (Saturday, Jan. 16 at 4:35 p.m.): The last time the Rams beat the Packers in the postseason they were representing St. Louis, not Los Angeles. And it happened to be in the second round of the 2001 postseason – January 2002, to be exact. Can they do it again? Maybe, but for the Rams to score an upset win over Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, they must control the time of possession while receiving some help from their defense. Prediction: Green Bay 24, Los Angeles 14
Baltimore Ravens at Buffalo Bills (Saturday, Jan. 16 at 8:15 p.m.): This is a toss-up – both teams are capable of winning this matchup! – but the Ravens may have the edge, thanks to its rushing attack. But the same could be said for its defense, too, which limited Derrick Henry to just 40 yards on 18 carries (2.2 yards per carry) last week. Buffalo received some help last week from the Indianapolis Colts‘ coaching staff, which made some strange decisions in both halves. PREDICTION: Baltimore 28, Buffalo 17
Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs (Sunday, Jan. 17 at 3:05 p.m.): The Browns have not appeared in the Divisional Round since 1994 when they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers by a score of 29-9. Cleveland beat Pittsburgh last week in a bizarre and crazy first-round matchup, but I am not sure they’re capable of slowing down the defending Super Bowl champions. Kansas City will push ahead for good early in the third quarter and secure a home date for the AFC Championship. PREDICTION: Kansas City 30, Cleveland 21
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints (Sunday, Jan. 17 at 6:40 p.m.):Tom Brady and the Buccaneers are peaking at the right time. Sure, they didn’t manhandle the Washington Football Team last week, but they certainly looked pretty good. And while Tampa Bay may have lost both meetings with Drew Brees and the Saints earlier this season, I think the third time is the charm for Bruce Arians‘ team. PREDICTION: Tampa Bay 28, New Orleans 25
It’s hard to believe, but somehow the National Football League (NFL) made it through an entire season while finding ways to combat the ongoing coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
I was unsure if and how the NFL would keep its coaches and players safe these past few months, along with each team’s staff, too, but somehow they did it. And now it is time to move onto the postseason.
Every week, I will share my thoughts on each matchup – this weekend we will be treated to six games – along with a prediction for each contest.
So, without further ado, here is our Noontime Sports NFL Wild Card predictions – enjoy the games, everyone, and let me know what you think by sending me a tweet to @NoontimeSports.
Make sure to listen to our Football Friday Podcast with Andrew Pezzelli and Zach Weiss on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills (Saturday, Jan. 9 at 1 p.m.): In my opinion, Josh Allen is the best quarterback drafted in the first round of the 2018 Draft – yes, I know Baker Mayfield was the first signal-caller selected, but Allen has enjoyed his best season as a pro with 37 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Allen and the Bills enter the postseason with a lot of momentum – I believe they have won their last six contests? – and should have no problem getting past the Colts on their home field. PREDICTION: Buffalo 28, Indianapolis 17
Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks (Saturday, Jan. 9 at 4:40 p.m.): It’s hard to pick against Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll in the postseason – somehow, this quarterback-coach duo knows how to lead the Seahawks to victory, especially on the road. But I expect them to find a way past a Rams team on their home field – earlier this season, I thought the Rams were going to be the best team in the NFC, but they haven’t been that impressive (in my opinion, to be exact) over the last few weeks. PREDICTION: Seattle 17, Los Angeles 9
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Washington Football Team (Saturday, Jan. 9, at 8:15 p.m.): The Washington Football Team has been a great story, despite their seven wins. Ron Riveraovercame cancer last fall while Alex Smithreturned to the field after sustaining a devastating injury two years ago. As much as I would love to see this team advance to the second round, I just don’t think they will be able to keep up with Tom Brady and the Buccaneers’ offense. Tampa Bay is going to win this game – hopefully, it will be close! – but I think Washington is a team to watch over the next few years. PREDICTION: Tampa Bay 23, Washington 10
Baltimore Ravens at Tennessee Titans (Sunday, Jan. 10 at 1:05 p.m.): The Ravens enter the postseason with a lot of momentum – in fact, they have won five straight and boast perhaps the best rushing attack amongst all the playoff teams. Last week, they racked up 404 yards against the Cincinnati Bengals, which is something they won’t do this weekend against Tennessee. However, I believe this rushing attack will be the reason why Baltimore scores its first postseason victory since January 3, 2015. PREDICTION: Baltimore 27, Tennessee 21
Chicago Bears at New Orleans Saints (Sunday, Jan. 10 at 4:40 p.m.): Do I smell a possible upset? I think I do! Chicago has won five contests on the road this year and almost beat New Orleans on their home field last November. According to ESPN, the Bears enter this year’s postseason “with nothing to lose.” PREDICTION: Chicago 24, New Orleans 20
Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers (Sunday, Jan. 10 at 8:15 p.m.): It’s been a LONG time since the Browns last played in the postseason, so you know their fans are eager for the kickoff to arrive as soon as possible. This is certainly a winnable match-up for Cleveland, which beat Pittsburgh last week. Yes, I know Pittsburgh sat a few starters last Sunday, but I just don’t think this Steelers team is that good. But as I said a few times in 2020, what do I know? PREDICTION: Cleveland 28, Pittsburgh 26
Yes, I know I am not the first to wish you, as well as your family and friends, a very happy and healthy new year, but hopefully this post – the first of many, of course! – will fill you with some much-needed joy and happiness on a rather gray and overcast day here in Boston, Massachusetts.
As promised in my year-end video, I am eager to produce some new (and old) content, including my first-ever ‘Noontime’s Sunday Thoughts’ column, which will be a mix of thoughts, ideas, and links from the sports world, along with some other topics, too.
I am excited for this column and hope you are, as well – I am sure it will look different each week, but that is the beauty of trying new things, right?
So, without further ado, here comes my first post of 2021 – I am excited and optimistic for a much better year for everyone!
Thought No. 1: 2021 will be much better than 2020: Yes, this is an understatement, but I believe better days are ahead – I am an optimist.
However, I don’t expect an immediate bounce back now that it is January 3, 2021. We still need to wear our masks, social distance, and wash our hands. And we need to “hold the line,” so we can finish strong.
We can do this – I believe in my fans and friends!
As we get closer to the spring and summer, I expect some sense of normalcy will return, but that feeling of gathering or watching a game safely won’t truly happen until late September or early October. Maybe early November?
This is an educated guess – I am not a scientist, so I could be wrong (fingers crossed!) – but once we are able to assemble safely at a future sporting event, I will breathe a sense of relief. I know that day will come and it will be an exciting occasion for everyone.
Thought No. 2: The NFL’s 2020 Season: To be honest, I did not expect the National Football League (NFL) would be able to play a full 17-week season during a pandemic. But somehow, they persevered.
Yep, I was wrong – sorry, everyone!
I was shocked that the league was able to play three weeks without an outbreak, but somehow, they overcame a hurdle of obstacles from the Tennessee Titans to Cam Newton to moving the Pittsburgh Steelers–Baltimore Ravens game from Thursday to Sunday to Monday to Tuesday.
The NFL seemed unprepared for its 2020 season after successfully conducting their collegiate draft in April via Zoom, but somehow they proved me wrong, so let’s enjoy the final day of the regular season because who knows what happens next week once the postseason begins.
Thought No. 3: The 2020 College Football Season: I am not the biggest college football fan, but I did watch a few games this past fall, including a pair of must-see Boston College contests against Clemson University and Notre Dame.
But what I witnessed outside of the Boston College matchups I watched was poor play by numerous teams, including various student-athletes, as well as coaches acting as if they were invisible to the coronavirus – did anyone actually wear a mask on the sidelines this year? I give my buddy Howard Herman of the Berkshire Eagle credit for the mask comment.
In addition to the playing field being mediocre, I have also found some of these bowl games rather boring – to be honest, I would rather watch bull-riding than some of these games, but again, what do I know?
The 2020 season was a wild ride for the college sports world – remember, not many of us knew if and when games would begin last fall – but similar to the NFL, the college football world deserves some credit for finding a way to play games safely. Hopefully the championship game between Alabama and Ohio State will be a good finale for the 2020 season.
Thought No. 4: Podcasts will continue to grow in 2021: If there is one thing 2020 taught us, it is that podcasts will continue to be a go-to medium for many of us working from home until at least the summertime, maybe the fall?
And while podcasts under big-time brands like Barstool Sports and The Ringer will continue to flourish, I do expect some smaller to medium size shows to gain more listeners (and yes, followers, too).
Our podcast – the Noontime Sports Podcast – has grown immensely, thanks to our fans and friends, but also because of the amazing guests that have joined me over these past few months (thank you to everyone that has joined me – can’t wait to have you all back again soon!).
I am excited to produce more shows this month while continuing to listen to new shows (and podcasts) I discovered last year.
Here are a few shows I would recommend listening to (and yes, hitting the subscribe button, too!):
I’ll definitely be highlighting podcasts more in the coming days and weeks, so stay tuned for future posts!
Final Thought: Could we see some new hyper-local blogs, websites or podcasts emerge this year, especially in New England?
My answer: Yes.
As many know, 2020 was not a good year for media, especially newspapers, that have shuttered or reduced their newsroom. There were also some big-time outlets that let-go of some well-established (and up-and-coming) writers, producers and on-air hosts, which leads me to think that many would be willing to take their following from social media to their own respective website, blog or podcast.
Here in Massachusetts, we have seen some smaller digital outlets grow over the past few weeks and months, including the New England Football Journal, which has done a good job with online shows to complements their high school and college football coverage. John Sarianides has hosted some video shows, including coaches chats that I have enjoyed and know my fans would, as well.
Pending high school football occurs (and is played) next month, the NEFJ will be a site to follow for coverage – make sure to follow the site’s co-owner Kevin Stone, who is very passionate about hyper-local sports coverage.
Speaking of college and high school football, make sure to follow Adam Kurkjian‘s coverage through MassVarsity – similar to John and Kevin, Adam has done a good job with providing Massachusetts football fans with content to consume with very few games being played – while Ryan Lanigan and Josh Perry have done a phenomenal job with their coverage through HockomockSports.com.
These are just three sites – yes, I know there are more – but these outlets have provided future content producers, writers, and editors with a blueprint of what they could create in certain pockets of the state of Massachusetts, along with the region for areas that have lost or need additional college and high school sports coverage.
Alright, that will do it for my first-ever ‘Noontime Sunday Thoughts’ column – hope you enjoyed it, and if you have any thoughts or ideas for next week’s post, please let me know. Send me a tweet message to @NoontimeSports or an email to MattNoonan@noontimesports.com.
Another week of the National Football League (NFL) is set to kickoff this evening – are you ready for some football?
Whether you’re eager to watch tonight’s contest between the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans or Sunday’s bounce back win for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it is time to dish out our second-straight ‘What If‘ NFL Playoff Predictions for the tenth week of the 2020 season.
Like last week, I will list the current postseason teams in order for both conference, as well as highlight the best opening round matchup (in my opinion!), along with who will win their respective conference crown and yes, the Super Bowl!
Let me know what you think – send me a tweet to @NoontimeSports or an email to MattNoonan@noontimesports.com.
Who’s in the AFC Playoffs?
Pittsburgh Steelers (8-0)
Kansas City Chiefs (8-1)
Buffalo Bills (7-2)
Tennessee Titans (6-2)
Baltimore Ravens (6-2)
Las Vegas Raiders (5-3)
Miami Dolphins (5-3)
Who’s in the NFC Playoffs?
New Orleans Saints (6-2)
Seattle Seahawks (6-2)
Green Bay Packers (6-2)
Philadelphia Eagles (3-4-1)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-3)
Arizona Cardinals (5-3)
Los Angeles Rams (5-3)
Most intriguing first-round matchup:
Miami Dolphins at Kansas City Chiefs: The Dolphins are trending in the right direction while it appears as if the Chiefs are sleepwalking their way to victory. Sure, this match-up may not occur once the postseason begins, but I would love to see this Dolphins defense against Patrick Mahomes. Most likely, the Chiefs would prevail, but no one should count out these Dolphins, which have scored some impressive wins over the past few weeks.
Green Bay Packers vs. Arizona Cardinals: These two teams have met previously in the postseason, but who wouldn’t want to watch Kyler Murray face-off with Aaron Rodgers? Pending how the rest of the season goes, this matchup could occur, but again, who knows? Both Murray and Rodgers have been players to watch this season, so you know it would be a game every football fan would want to watch next January.
AFC Championship Prediction: Kansas City Chiefs vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: Like last week, this is my AFC Championship prediction, but maybe the Baltimore Ravens, Las Vegas Raiders or Miami Dolphins replace one of these two teams listed above? I could also see the Tennessee Titans in the championship game for the second-straight season, but in the end, the Chiefs are the defending champions and will beat the Steelers by a field goal, not a touchdown. PREDICTION: Kansas City over Pittsburgh
NFC Championship Prediction: Green Bay Packers vs. New Orleans Saints: The New Orleans Saints are the best team in the NFC – sorry, Seattle Seahawks fans, but your defense needs to improve its defense immediately. Additionally, I don’t think Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will go on a deep postseason run – maybe they lose in the opening round to the Philadelphia Eagles in the opening round? – but this matchup would feature two of the best quarterbacks in the game. And in the end, the Saints offense will make a few more plays to beat the Packers and celebrate a conference championship on their home field. PREDICTION: New Orleans over Green Bay
Super Bowl Prediction: Kansas City Chiefs vs. New Orleans Saints: This has the potential for an offensive showcase, but which defense will not break? My answer: the Saints! PREDICTION: New Orleans over Kansas City
Heinsohn is also being remembered for his passionate and insightful color commentary – fans will certainly miss his insight this upcoming season as a broadcaster. The New Jersey native, who guided the Celtics to 10 National Basketball Association (NBA) championships and was inducted into the Hall of Fame as both a player (1986) and coach (2015), is someone his former colleague Mike Gorman believes will never be replaced.
Prior to coaching and playing for the Celtics, Heinsohn competed locally at at Holy Cross where he led the Crusaders to the 1954 National Invitation Tournament(NIT) championship. He earned a pair of first-team All-American honors with the Purple and White, and was inducted into the Holy Cross Varsity Club Hall of Fame in 1962.
Numerous Celtics players, both current and past, shared memories of Tommy Heinsohn on Twitter, including Marcus Smart and Cedric Maxwell.
Switching gears to football, the National Football League (NFL) could welcome two more teams to the postseason this winter, pending upcoming contests get canceled due to the coronavirus.
Speaking with owners during a Tuesday video conference, Roger Goodell, who is the league’s commissioner, said the NFL is “committed” to completing the league’s current schedule. The NFL was not impacted by the virus until the third week of the season concluded.
As of now, seven teams from each conference will compete in the upcoming NFL postseason, which is scheduled to kick-off next January, with the top seed securing a first-round bye.
Here are a few more stories to read either later this morning or afternoon: